Rich Get Richer

These charts show why Ireland's wealth divide has widened so much

Inequality is the topic of David McWilliams’ new documentary, which airs tonight on RTÉ One.

THE RICH ARE getting richer. For everyone else, there’s no such luck.

That’s the message from economist David McWilliams in Ireland’s Great Wealth Divide, a new documentary that airs on RTÉ One tonight at 9:35pm.

Picture: Tony Kinlan. David McWilliams Tony Kinlan Tony Kinlan

The programme sees McWilliams challenge austerity and its great promise of trickle-down economics, explaining how and why Ireland’s rich-poor divide has widened so drastically in recent years.

The recession has been challenging for everyone, he says, but those with assets and influence have fared remarkably better than the rest of us.

McWilliams argues that neoliberal economic policies have seen wealth transferred from the poorest to the better off, and that this concentration of wealth is reversing social mobility at a faster pace than many assume.

This is what you can expect to hear if you tune in tonight.

Incomes have stagnated over the past seven years.

The income of those who make money exclusively from shares and assets, though, has gone up by 500% since 2008.

David McWilliams 2 RTÉ / CSO/Bloomberg RTÉ / CSO/Bloomberg / CSO/Bloomberg

Multinationals located in Ireland are paying very, very little tax. 

American corporations based here make $970,000 profit per employee every year, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, but they only pay $25,000 tax per employee on these profits.

If they were to pay only twice as much tax per employee, McWilliams points out, they’d still be making over $900,000 dollars profit a year.

David McWilliams 3 RTÉ / US Bureau of Economic Analysis RTÉ / US Bureau of Economic Analysis / US Bureau of Economic Analysis

Ireland is significantly more unequal than we think.

The consensus from a Red C poll of 1,000 people commissioned for the documentary was that Ireland’s richest 20% had 60% of the country’s wealth and that the poorest 20% have 11%.

The reality? The most affluent 20% in Ireland actually own 73% of the country’s wealth and the poorest 20% own just 0.2%. As for the top 5%, their combined wealth is nearly double that of the entire “squeezed middle”.

David McWilliams RTÉ / Red C/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2014 RTÉ / Red C/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2014 / Red C/Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2014

Read: There are now 1,826 billionaires in the world (as the gap between rich and poor widens further) 

Read: How much do the top 1% in Ireland earn a year?

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